Brazilian football star Carlos Kaiser had it all: exclusive contracts with popular teams, money and fame. The professional footballer was only missing one thing: the ability to play the game.
Arguably the greatest con man in all of sports history, Kaiser was able to maintain a career that spanned nearly two decades while playing in as few games as possible and never scoring a goal.
When his career began to trend dowards after the youth level, Kaiser devised a plan to keep going. He would maintain a career without ever playing.
"Like every other player, I came from a poor family, but I want to be big, have a lot of money so I could give better life conditions to my family," Kaiser admitted in a 2011 interview with Globo. "I knew that the best way to make it happen was through soccer. I wanted to be a football player without having to actually play it."
Kaiser was fortunate in the early stages of his scheme to befriend stars such as Romario, Carlos Albert Torres, and Renato Gaucho, all of whom would recommend him to coaches, where they would be persuaded to sign Kaiser to a short-term contract. Coaches were not afforded the technology of today, so having footage to scout players was not an option, and Kaiser used this to his advantage. Many of Kaiser's contracts would only last for three to six months, and upon signing would state that he needed time to regain fitness, buying himself a few months to collect without having to play.
Once it was time to practice, Kaiser would fall to the ground, clutching a hamstring or other body part. He would then proceed to ride out the rest of his contract while planning his next target.
Kaiser worked to maintain his reputation as a soccer star, going so far as to befriend journalists and giving them jerseys and memorabilia in an effort to get them to write fraudulent articles about his ability. One article even stated that Kaiser had received an offer to become a Mexican citizen in order to play for the national team.
In one season, Kaiser signed a contract with French club Gazélec Ajaccio, a division II team.
The team organised an open practice for their prestigious new Brazilian but Kaiser, wary being found out, decided to kick all of the balls into the stands, thanking the fans and kissing the team's badge on his jersey. “The fans went crazy. And in the grass there was not a ball," he recalls.
Without balls to practice with, the team was restricted to doing a physical training session.
Kaiser continued to take advantage of friendships with journalists and players, signing deals with new clubs each time someone started to catch on to his scheme. Despite not scoring a single goal, the media often spoke of Kaiser's scoring ability. When Kaiser signed with Brazilian club Bangu, one newspaper headline read 'Bangu already has its king: Carlos Kaiser'.
“I do not regret anything," he told Globo. "Clubs already deceive so many players, someone had to be the avenger."